No vision

‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’. The Lib Dems did not communicate a positive vision to the electorate because we have not created that vision for ourselves. Vision is derived from values and without a vision there is no plan. Our manifesto was wishy washy; no ifs, no buts, we failed to “Get it Done” and hence the General Election result.  Here are some ideas for debate. We need a Lib Dem vision and thereby a radical and progressive agenda.

  1. The Athenian leader Cleisthenes (507 BC) introduced demokratia, or “rule by the people”. Europe, its birthplace, and now, in the 21st century, the European Union (EU) embodies democracy. We need to resume our place at the heart of a flourishing EU to underpin the sovereignty of the citizen, underpinned by a common currency, universal security and democratic government which can ensure peace and security for our society.
  2. At the heart of global trade is money and that monetary system is out of control and injurious to humanity; it is not fit for purpose and must be reformed. The cause stems from the privilege enjoyed by private banking to create money from nothing in the form of demand deposits and lending it at interest. The solution is to correct the system by moving money creation to a public body working on behalf of citizens. A sound monetary system will underpin fair trade and thus ensure equality, liberty and freedom for citizens.
  3. Well-being is at the centre of individual and community health, happiness, and prosperity. Well-being pivots on the self worth of the individual citizens and their communities and is the foundation of an egalitarian society underscored by universal education and health care provision.
  4. There is limitless potential in the application of new technologies where advances in medicine, communications, power generation and food production can be exploited. We must rebuild our physical infrastructure. Cybernetics will be at the heart of this transformation. The purpose of technology is to free people from repetitive and boring jobs enabling them to become self fulfilled human beings.
  5. The long history of democracy and law enshrined in a written constitution is the underpinning of Human Rights. The Cyrus Cylinder (539 BC – religious freedom and racial equality), the Magna Carta (1215 – equality before the law), the First Geneva Convention (1864 – law of armed conflict), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the Ruggie Principles (2008 Human rights in the international private sector) all provide the basis for a written constitutional and electoral reform necessary to become a 21st century democracy.
  6. Ours is the first generation to properly understand the damage we have been doing to the planet and probably the last generation with the chance to do something about it. Our divisive and degenerative behaviour undermines households, the commons, the marketplace and the state. It needs to be replaced with a sustainable distributive and regenerative model whereby we husband our planet so that we cannot only survive but thrive.

* Paul Fisher is the Chair of Liberal Democrats in France.

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27 Comments

  • John David Leaver 23rd Dec '19 - 2:58pm

    We know the frailties of our political system, Paul, and living overseas like you I feel your pain. As I’d like to vote in UK elections like French citizens can worldwide, I, living in the US, can only wish the best possible outcome for you in UK-EU negotiations, especially regarding settled status and citizenship. However, I can’t help but have my concerns abut this line in your otherwise excellent article: “We need to resume our place at the heart of a flourishing EU to underpin the sovereignty of the citizen, underpinned by a common currency, universal security and democratic government which can ensure peace and security for our society.” That boat, I think has sailed. You reference Athenian democracy. Perhaps in a generation E.U. membership could be a possibility for the UK again. But if we hold to the sentiments you express in the sentence I quoted, don’t we risk, using another historical analogy, merely post-1688 Europhile Jacobite or even Jacobin status? I don’t recognize your characterization of the E.U. either. It was a Franco-German entente in its early days, and that again will be its political axis. We need to look to British interests in attaining as workable a solution for our national problems with Europe as possible. We have as well the heavy burden of being led for some time to come by a disreputable leader. Sorry to say, but the Lib Dems, in my view, must move on from being a one trick pony. ‘Remain’ is in ruins. Time to build something better.

  • John David Leaver The EU boat has not sailed. Whether or not we stay closely aligned with the EU depends largely on the rapidity of the disintegration of the ‘world as we know it’ – ie the impact of real time natural, economic and physical global events which are gathering momentum towards God knows what and our own intelligence in dealing with these events. Our problem is in attempting to assess the future in the UK based on past experience. This is a waste of time. Let’s all light our lamps and tidy our corners. We’ll need to be well rested and at the top of our operating potential when the the real problems bite. Personally I’m strengthening all ties with twin EU towns and with my EU colleagues and friends here. I’m also keeping a sharp eye on the erosion of our democracy eg by the rather weird jump of postal votes to, allegedly, 38% (from 15% in 2017) as stated in Lord Ashcroft’s post election 13,000 sample voting survey. The EU is its people. We are that people.

  • It’s very easy to see the election result as a disaster. The reality is that we doubled our vote from 2017. That means a lot and, in the rush to carry out a post mortem, we need to ensure that the good things we achieved aren’t lost.
    The Revoke A50 and, even though accepted when properly explained, caused us much trouble and was possibly the reason for the fall in the opinion polls in the last few weeks as it was constantly rehashed by the pro-Brexit press.
    Personally, I think the vision was there but there was too much reliance on Jo Swinson. The Tories and Labour used different people whereas it was only Jo for us. We did the same in 2017. I objected to the bus with ‘Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats’ it’s not Jo’s it’s OURS. Using Ed, Chukka and Layla more may have given different perspectives. We say that we’re different to the other parties but then tend to behave in the same way – should be policies not personalities.

  • Humphrey Hawksley 24th Dec '19 - 8:23am

    Paul Fisher hits the nail on the head. Over many years, I have tried to open discussion on forging a captivating Liberal Democrat vision. At the highest and most grass roots levels of the Party, and it appears to be an alien concept. There is always something more urgent to be done like the Glee Club or delivering a Focus. Yet the ‘vision thing’ accounts for around 75 per cent of votes at a general election, with 25 per cent based on local and other issues. Establishing a vision should now be a priority task and Paul is right that it should revolve around Europe. Many Britons feel set apart from Europe because this nation has not experienced occupation and the collapse of the state, as many European countries have. They feel a need for a shared vision to prevent it happening again. British voters also rightly point to the corruption and bureacracy of the European Union. The vision, therefore, needs to encompass our region as opposed the EU and unfold a picture as to what a successful Europe will look like fifty years from now. It should not be beyond the wit of the new leadership to task a small unit to begin this work.

  • Five years to come up with something and no real point until we see where Boris takes things, at the moment seems like more of the same rather than stripping the UK back to a lean and mean, battle ready, post Brexit machine… the first budget will define things, and insofar as it is post Brexit exit does hint at some madness (the EU might baulk at signing the exit treaty if they knew what reforms were about to happen?).

    Getting the electorate to back rejoining the EU or signing up for FOM or joining the Euro… can’t see it making a big breakthrough. Protecting individuals from the whims of the State and big business has much merit but needs to be broken down into exact sound bites rather than vague statements of intent.

    Climate change, the UK ends up a bit wetter and hotter with some coastal erosion whilst big chunks of the world end up desert-like is probably just going to reinforce the populace’s concept of closing down on mass immigration etc., especially if some vicious strains of Ebola start taking out chunks of Africa. The Tories will ramp up on the fear and loathing, seeing any compassionate politics as a useful weakness to exploit.

  • Our planet will survive; it is our place on it that is not so certain. You could argue that it is rejecting our colonisation of it. Until we can learn to live more in harmony with it and its ecosystems, flow and values, we as a species will be at risk. Our vision should reflect that.

  • Laurence Cox 25th Dec '19 - 3:29pm

    @Paul

    Have you read Conrad Russell’s “An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Liberalism”? You really should before you start talking about “vision”. Just because Macron’s party is in ALDE does not make them liberal in the British sense.

  • David Garlick 26th Dec '19 - 8:43pm

    No Vision? Agreed not clear or communicated.
    Lacking in positivity? Agreed always state you positive first and foremost then it to the oppositions failings secondly.
    Naivety? Politically naïve when ever things look good /promising. Seem to lose our political compass in a giddy rush. Both in power sharing, then in coalition and this time. Time to toughen up.

  • They walked around with t-shirts saying bollocks to what the majority voted for whilst labour said ‘it was close but now that we know what we now know let’s ask the public if they are sure’. It’s a stain on the party is what it is.

  • Peter Watson 29th Dec '19 - 11:10pm

    @Paul Walter ““In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way” – Nigel Farage, May 2016”
    In light of subsequent events, the response to Farage’s comments are quite interesting!
    In anticipation of a Remain victory, Tim Farron dismissed them as a “pathetic comeback attempt”:

    The idea of a second EU referendum, suggested by Farage earlier this week, is not only a pathetic attempt at a comeback by a failing “Leave” campaign, it also ignores the history of these sort of referendums.
    Successive independence referendums for the state of Quebec in Canada popularised the phrase “neverendum,” and eventually the independence movement collapsed. Farage and those supporting Brexit should take note: undermining the validity of a referendum and ignoring the democratic choice of British people will not make you more popular (something other nationalist parties in the country should also understand). Nor will it encourage more people to support your cause in the first instance.
    The UKIP leader regularly accuses the EU of not listening to the democratic will of countries. So maybe, just maybe, he should live up to his own words for once and listen to the choice of the British people.

    (http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/politics/big-question-will-there-be-a-second-eu-referendum)

  • I’d say it was perfectly consistent with the internationalist position over the last (at least) 70 years of this and predecessor parties.
    – There is a huge difference between disagreeing with the electorate and trying to argue your case and sticking two fingers up at them with a crude t-shirt informing the voters that their choice should effectively be spat upon. It’s flattening your vote even if it is increasing. Because while there are a minority of people who think t-shirts like that are acceptable there are very few constituencies where the majority would think that response was ok. This will be a bigger and longer lasting stain on the party than the coalition was because the coalition was just grownup pragmatic politics, MEPs wearing rude words on t-shirts about the electorates decision is student politics at best. It’s a disgusting stain on the party and will take decades to wash off.

    “ In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way” – Nigel Farage, May 2016
    I have zero desire to use Nigel Farage as a guide to my behaviour, I don’t care what he would do I’m not behaving like him.

  • Innocent Bystander 30th Dec '19 - 9:22pm

    Paul,
    I, with less hyperbole, regret that infamous slogan. It just made the party look juvenile, uncouth and contemptuous of others.
    It offered the opposite of understanding and reconciliation and just invoked an equivalent hostile response.
    I am sure your defence is well meant but the party no longer looked serious, grown up and responsible.

  • “It just made the party look juvenile, uncouth and contemptuous of others.
    “It’s a disgusting stain on the party and will take decades to wash off.”
    The problem with this analysis is that the election in which we used that slogan saw us get our biggest share of the vote in 9 years, beating both the Tory and Labour parties. Unfortunately we then started mis-managed our strategy and messaging, which is why we did so badly in December. But don’t forget June.
    I for one am proud that we stood up strongly for a cause we passionately believed in, and managed to communicate it effectively to the voters.
    As for the future? When the grim fallout from Brexit becomes clear over the next few years, we will be able to say to the voters, “We tried to stop it. The Tories lied to you about it, and Labour were all over the place, but we tried to stop it. Remember the T-shirts?” I think many – including people who are currently Leave/Tory voters – will respond positively to that.

  • RossMcL 30th Dec ’19 – 11:35pm:
    The problem with this analysis is that the election in which we used that slogan saw us get our biggest share of the vote in 9 years, beating both the Tory and Labour parties.

    And the problem with that analysis is that it ignores the low turnout in the EU election. Only 3,367,284 people voted LibDem – 329,139 fewer than in the General Election.

  • Andrew Tampion 31st Dec '19 - 7:02am

    “They walked around with t-shirts saying bollocks to what the majority voted for whilst labour said ‘it was close but now that we know what we now know let’s ask the public if they are sure’. It’s a stain on the party is what it is.“

    I’d say it was perfectly consistent with the internationalist position over the last (at least) 70 years of this and predecessor parties.

    My Shorter Oxford Dictionary, Third Edition 1993 defines internationalism as “International character or spirit; the advocacy of a community of interests among nations.”

    For some reason the editors seem to have missed out the bit about gratuitously insulting that portion of the electorate who take a different view of the merits of being a member of the EU than many Liberal Democrats do.

  • Innocent Bystander 31st Dec '19 - 8:38am

    Ross,
    er…. the party has 11 seats out of 650 available. Your defence is passionate but that is the point. This slogan was vulgar and insulting and although it enthused and delighted those inside the LibDem thought bubble, as you clearly point out, to be successful the party needs votes from those outside. The voters who laughed and applauded the T-shirt were yours already.
    In my humble opinion anyway, it diminished the party’s image as a serious political force.

  • The campaign was a dud. The Lib Dems got over hyped over an essentially meaningless EU election and forgot, that whilst they did better than the Tories or Labour, they came in well behind the Brexit Party. The T shirt was simply a symptom of overconfidence. I don’t think most Leave voters were bothered by it enough to be offended and those that were probably responded in an equally direct Anglo-Saxon linguistic manner

  • Innocent bystander – there are (unfortunately) many reasons for our poor performance in the GE. You can’t attribute it all to the T-shirts of the summer. We need much more rigorous analysis than that.

  • Richard Hill 31st Dec '19 - 10:55am

    As an occasional LD voter:
    1) “We need a Lib Dem vision [Agreed] and thereby a radical and progressive agenda.” Lab lost votes, not only because of who their leader is/was, but also because their policies were too radical for even some of their traditional supporters.
    2) Agree with David. Going with a purist revoke Article 50 stance as their central policy undoubtedly lost LDs votes, aiding Boris to make the election primarily about Brexit. Telling a good proportion of the electorate that they were wrong and their choice from 2016 should just be ignored (aka “Bollocks to Brexit”) was condescending at best. A better (IMHO) option would have to offer a meaningful 2nd referendum with detailed options on the ballot papers.
    3) There was too much emphasis on Jo, but this election was probably fairly unique. It became almost a contest of who’s leader was the least unpopular, with the LDs being dismissed out of hand by many.
    4) You cannot change a system that favours 2 parties unless you are in a position of power to enable the change. As an occasional LD voter, I personally thought that the coalition government did a reasonable job (bar the decision to hold a EU Ref). Cooperative government helps hold the larger parties in check and keeps the policies from diverging to the extremities of the political spectrum.
    5) On extremes with respect to party policies: in this past election, the Conservatives moved further to the right, Labour to the left and LDs failed to effectively communicate and capitalise on their more centralist stance, which (I would like to believe) is where the majority of the electorate sit.

  • Innocent Bystander 31st Dec '19 - 11:37am

    Ross,
    Of course you are correct in that one T-shirt does not a disaster make.
    But it added to an image of amateurish, impulsive and shallow that no serious party would want.
    This may be a red rag to the LibDem bull, but the likes of a Machiavellian Cummings would never have allowed this, or any number of similar unforced errors, to tarnish the message.
    Nor would he have permitted attention hungry C list celebs to share the party platform in order to offer their bad tempered insults to millions of potential voters on the eve of the election.
    The party should be doing far better than 11 seats and not rely on the soundbite “where we work we win”. In my letter box LibDem leaflets far out numbered the others but still lost. What is needed are plausible centre ground policies and a message strictly enforced to a master plan.

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